Do you experience a runny nose or sneezing when you eat avocados, eggplant, or tomatoes? Do you experience unexplained headaches, fatigue, or dizziness? These can be signs and symptoms of an allergy, but if allergy testing comes up negative, it might be possible that you have a histamine intolerance. The number of people who report a food allergy or intolerance is growing in the United States, and the prevalence of histamine intolerance is currently estimated at 1% of the population. Histamine is a biogenic amine that is released as part of your immune system response when an allergen is detected. High amounts of histamine can result from an allergic response, ingestion of a large quantity of histamine-containing foods or beverages, consumption of foods that cause histamine to be released, or an impaired ability for enzymes to break it down.

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Symptoms of histamine intolerance are similar to an allergic reaction, including itching and sneezing, watery eyes, headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, hypotension, and others. Multiple organs and systems are involved, making the diagnosis difficult. The current method of diagnosis is a skin-prick test and double-blind food challenge, a form of the elimination diet (ask us how we can help guide you through this.)  Approaches to alleviate symptoms are focused on the reduction of dietary sources of histamine, which include many cheeses, yogurt, processed meats, alcohol, some fish, cherries, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, and some seasonings, among others. Histamine exists in more than your diet so total avoidance is not possible, although the maintenance of a low-histamine diet can help.

Your nutritionist can help you follow a histamine-restricted diet while also ensuring your total diet remains adequate in all nutrients.

Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, November 2014

by Emily

Bastyr University student intern

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